The Pittsburgh Penguins were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in the qualification round, meaning they didn’t qualify for the regular 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s the first time since 2006, meaning it was easy to understand why GM Jim Rutherford wants to make some changes. What might be less easy to understand is Rutherford’s continued defense of Jack Johnson, which continued today in a piece by Josh Yohe of The Athletic.
Here’s my summary of this situation. Maybe Jack Johnson isn’t as good as I think he is. Maybe. But he’s not as bad as all of the anti-Jack Johnson people think he is. I’ll tell you what he is: He’s a solid, third-pairing defenseman if he’s playing with the right guy. He’s a player that I happen to really like and I think he’s a better player than a lot of people want to give him credit for.
Johnson has never had strong analytics behind his play, but through the first part of his career, produced consistent offensive numbers in bigger minutes. Rutherford and the Penguins signed him to a five-year, $16.25MM deal in 2018 that still has three seasons remaining. If changes are coming, it doesn’t currently look like Johnson is one, though Rutherford has been known to reconsider early-offseason comments before.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs have an assistant coach opening beside Sheldon Keefe after Paul McFarland returned to the OHL to take over head coaching and GM duties of the Kingston Frontenacs. Speculation immediately went to former Maple Leafs player Bruce Boudreau, who is looking for work after being fired by the Minnesota Wild this season. Boudreau has long been a candidate to join the Maple Leafs given his ties to and support of the organization, and now James Mirtle of The Athletic reports that the team asked Minnesota for permission to speak with him over the last few months. Boudreau, understandably, is looking for another head coaching opportunity before considering an assistant job, but is “intrigued by the idea” according to Mirtle.
- The Arizona Coyotes were outscored 14-2 by the Colorado Avalanche in their final two games of the postseason and now have plenty of work to do this offseason. Not only do they have Steve Sullivan quickly taking the reins as GM after the departure of John Chayka, but have a huge decision to make on the future of Taylor Hall. The 28-year-old forward is a pending free agent, and Craig Button of TSN doesn’t believe the Coyotes should even entertain re-signing him. Button explains that the Coyotes don’t have the supporting cast to justify signing Hall to an expensive, long-term contract—though he then suggests that Hall should be looking for a one-year deal with a contender to rebuild his value.